Category Archives: magical moments

Fog

Mist, drifting. Enchantment airborne.

Magically transporting me back in time, to a youthful state of awe. Mystically obscuring the linear shapes of the mundane. Cloaking the world in mystery, transforming the ordinary into the unknown.

I have always welcomed fog, found it to be a special gift.

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In the fog, anything seems possible. Objects appear and disappear, figures and shapes loom out of it in an instant, just as rapidly returning to those concealing tendrils. The quotidian sounds of life become muffled, adding a sense of expectancy, of pregnancy to every fog-shrouded moment.

It seemed to me, when young, quite obvious that the realm of Faerie (if it existed) depended on fog, mist, and starlight. It hinged on twilight. If it was real, it was only real in the blurred realm of soft lighting, not in the harsh, empirical light of the midday sun.

Fog seems a gateway, a misty portal.

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Walking the streets of San Francisco or London, enveloped in mist so thick it seems tangible, palpable, anything seems possible. Strolling through foggy rural Germany, the likelihood of trolls under bridges seems more certain than doubtful.  Hiking through the redwood forests, fog imbues the surroundings with the attributes of a cathedral, of a forgotten, ancient, and holy temple.

I know it is just a ground-hugging cloud, a floating sea of mist that refracts and reflects light according to the laws of physics. I know the silence is due to the attenuative effect of water on sound propagation…yet I still sense the magic. I know it is just a cooler air mass meeting warmer ground, not a mystical event.

Yet I dare my fellow empiricists to deny the sense of magic and mystery inherent in the fog. We know it may simply be reactions of our amygdalae at the unexpected distortion coming from the optic nerve…still you would surely jump out of your boots if an unexpected sight or sound arose from this fog.

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Drifting in a North Atlantic fog bank, the rest of the world seems quite unlikely. In this misty soup, the philosophic question/statement of ‘cogito, ergo sum’ seems less ridiculous, the Zen koan of the tree falling unobserved makes a bit more sense. Without the reassuring visual and auditory inputs, the existence of another world beyond our senses (a ‘real’, logical, linear one) seems less likely than our logical brains tell us it is (the converse of more sunlit times).

In the enfolding vapors, the romantic are called to romance, the evil to evil, and the fearful to fear. In the obscuring shrouds, none of us sally boldly forth. No, the mist adds a sense of trepidity to our steps. In the refracted world of fog, we find humility, uncertainty made palpable.

If fog magnifies the sense of mystery in life, it also amplifies the awesome beauty of natural events; snow and fog or lightning/thunder in fog are even more awesome than without it. We’ve all (most of us, anyhow) witnessed the grace of snowfall, the power of lightning. But to behold them both at once is a gift given to few.

In the monochrome world of fog, shape gains a new ascendency, is highlighted by the simple background pallette of grays and white shades. Subtle, almost imagined contrasts impart an air of simultaneous hyper-reality and surrealism. The backdrop against which geometry manifests itself no longer distracts our eye. Objects spring forth in a sudden moment of stark clarity, then fade back into the obscuring vapors, where those once-stark shapes fade with distance into the blur of mist.

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None the less magical in the explainability of its source or physics, fog remains a large factor in our perceptions and mood. Regardless of its cause, fog retains an awesome power, one undiluted by the quantifications of science.

For understanding comes from raw experience, rises from the heart, the guts, and not the head.  We experience fog…and all natural wonders from the place of the heart. If we do not, we miss the gift of magic that resides there, in spite of the explanations and protestations of the head, of the ‘logical’ mind.

The fog has magic within it…whether we see it so or not.

 

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The Hardest Yoga Pose of All

When people think of hard yoga poses, they typically think of contortions they can never imagine being able to perform. They think of ‘hard’ poses like Peacock and Garland. They never imagine that the most difficult pose is the one accessible to all people, even non-yogis and paralyzed people.

The hardest pose doesn’t require super strength, or balance, or even flexibility. It requires gentleness and presence. It doesn’t require years of practice; anyone can get into the physical configuration in seconds.

Despite its ease and accessibility, this pose is one of the most beneficial and rewarding of the many yoga poses. It is the pose that helps us integrate and absorb the benefits of the other poses. It is a pose that many of us (yogis and non-yogis alike) are in every day, and that all of us will eventually experience. The pose I am talking about is the Final Resting Pose, typically called Savasana (pronounced shavasana) or Corpse Pose.

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In it, we lie totally motionless, without thought or expectation, without goals. Lying motionless, relaxing all muscles and surrendering to the embrace of the Earth is much harder for most of us than it sounds.   Lying with a still mind, heart, and body makes it even harder. Just ask any meditator how difficult it is to still the mind. Just ask any human how difficult it is to still the heart. Just ask any kid on Christmas Eve how hard it is to still the hopes and dreams and expectations.

Final resting pose is typically performed at the end of practice, but it can be performed alone, at any time. It is the pose we use when experiencing Yoga Nidra, deep yogic relaxation. It is the pose we leave the empty envelope of our bodies in when we leave this mortal sphere.  It is arguably the ultimate yoga pose.

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In meditation, we sit in Lotus Pose. This grounds us firmly to the Earth, stacks the spine, aligns our chakra (subtle energy centers of the body), and allows us to sit in relative relaxation and ease. This posture best allows prakriti (Kundalini Shakti or nectar of life) to flow. We sit here with still mind and relatively still body.

In Savasana, we lay totally still. No muscles need be active, none working to hold us upright. Even the most accomplished meditator has an active body (while sitting perfectly still) to offset the pull of gravity and maintain the position. In Savasana, every muscle is released, there is no gravity to rise up against. In Savasana, there is nothing to be done. No activity is required.

There is nothing to be done, nowhere to go, nothing to occupy the mind.

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No one cares if Kundalini rises or not, or if the vertebrae are stacked. No one cares if the mind is still. Nothing to accomplish. Nothing to be done. Just…release. This is harder than it sounds. Some days it is easier to approach this state, some days you just drop right in, like sinking into a warm bath on a cold day. No one ever truly reaches this state (this side of the grave), but we just drop in nonetheless.

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As you can see, Savasana is more than just a yoga pose or posture; it is a state of being, an integrated state of mind, body, and spirit. It is asana, as all yoga poses are. In Savasana, it is also a state of non-being, to a degree active yoga poses cannot have. Yet all poses contain an element of Savasana in them.

As I write this, my mind is active, my body tingling with energy, my soul vibrant and joyous. Savasana gives me a chance to drop all that, to re-connect to the stillness inside. It is a gift to us all, accessible to us all.

Meditation is also a gift, one yoga prepares us for. To meditate (one component of yoga) without (the physical component of) yoga is hard, for how can we hope to know the stillness of the mind before we know the stillness of the body? How can we hope to control and release the mind when we cannot first control or release the body (of which the mind is an integrated part)?

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To drop and release in Savasana is also hard, but it can be experienced without preparation by Hatha (physical part of) yoga. It can be accessed and experienced by us all. It is simultaneously the easiest and hardest pose in Hatha Yoga.

Savasana is a gift, a respite, a safe sanctuary amidst the activity and chaos of life. It is a holy place, a holy experience where we can find relief from pain, suffering, and all else. It is a gift to us all, a gift that awaits us at all times.

We just need to drop it all and drop in. There we find the peace of AUM.

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There we experience a glimpse of yoga.

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The Ambrosial Hours

The hours around sunrise and sunset are magical. In those special moments right before dawn, when night is giving way, when the first hint of dawn in seen in the east – and those moments after sunset, when the day is fading slowly into night, are what is called in yogic science amrit vela, the ambrosial hours. In these hours, when the veil that separates night and day is thinnest, we find perfect moments for reflection, yogic practice/meditation, and perhaps simple togetherness.

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Of course all moments contain the source of this ambrosia, all 86,400 seconds each day. All moments of now (approximately 100 per second, as the brain ‘re-boots itself -not updates – itself every 10 milliseconds or so, thus making almost a million possible, perceivable ‘nows’ in a day) contain this nectar…in potentiality. Yet those relatively few moments are unarguably special. Nature itself tells us so, as the skies turn an array of colors, as the visible world softens in evidence. These physical causes of refraction and varied light spectral length are not the only things that make these moments magic. We all know it, all sense it – if we allow ourselves to.

In these special moments, we are most vulnerable, most open, most human. In these moments our ‘ordinary’ attitudes and filters soften, and we have a chance to glimpse for a second, to see more clearly, the innate and effulgent beauty of every moment. 

I love the ‘pink’ hours, when the light is soft and everything takes a pinkish/golden glow. Perhaps this unique spectral density of light activates our pineal glands which then emit DMT (the spirit molecule associated with religious experiences and overwhelming senses of peace and unity) into our bodies, causing the sensation of bliss. Perhaps then our minds still enough to hear the whispering of the Goddess, the singing of angels, the turning of the universe on its axis. Regardless of the reason or source, these moments can be proven (by our own experience, the only way anything can be truly proven to us) to be times when we can not only sense but experience this magic. These moments offer opportunities (in potential) for increased depth of meditation, fuller expression of yogic asana and practice, and a closer perception of and unity with the Divine.

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Yet the ambrosial hours are more than just these in-between hours, or the more obvious dawn and slow growth into full day. They also contain those moments just after the darkest depths of night, those moments when the first glimmer and hope of dawn occur. They are moments right as dawn becomes a hint in our minds and hearts – as well as on the horizon. They are the moments when night has finally fallen…yet a barely detectable glimmer of day still lingers, before it finally fades, and night truly descends.

I love to be awake for these times. I love to see each dawn and each sunset, to see the glory of the painted clouds or the simple dimming or growing of light through cloud cover. I love to be there. In this moment of ostensible alone-ness, when I seem to be the only one awake (or when only other yogis and early birds are), in these moments I find a sense of connection with all beings, a sense of togetherness at the levels that count – at the deep soul levels, mostly hidden from our conscious perception.

In these magical moments my ego relaxes a bit, allowing my mind to still a bit, allowing my heart and soul to come to the foreground and shine. In these moments I am more likely to experience (not achieve) yoga or union, experience samadhi or enlightenment. In these moments, the full potential of change and growth and transformation manifest, amplified beyond more ordinary moments of day and night.

I find each to be a gift.

Being there for these moments dictates (to a degree) that I wake up early (before the dawn) and go to bed fairly early (so I get more than a couple hours of sleep before waking). That indicates a lifestyle, to a degree, but it is worth it. I am not dogmatic, and will change my schedule as need or desire dictate…but in the end, what is normal is this type of lifestyle.

That is why it is odd that I am awake in the wee hours, those couple hours before us early birds rise. In the deep, dark, depths of the night, when only crackheads, meth-heads, and cops are awake – or insomniacs and those in deep pain that causes sleepless nights – there is also a sort of peace, a different type of magic. It is rare to experience it for me, and the cost of experiencing it is high: I will miss my normal ambrosial hours sleeping, I will miss my morning meditation at this powerful time and my morning yoga as the sun finally rises and the day dawns. I will set and start my day in a slightly different tone. Sleeping late so as to be rested for the day ahead, I will get up late and thus pedal out late – missing that special early autumn morning pedal and replacing it with a late morning pedal.

The cost is high, but I pay it gladly. I can sacrifice a day or two of ambrosial hours missed, as long as I make most of them. Most people never even see the sun rise, or if they do it is as they are commuting, or getting ready for work and they have no time to fully experience it, to take a moment to live these most special and magical moments of the day. Some people never see sunrises or sunsets in their day; they are ‘busy’ working inside a box, or driving in a box, or sitting in a box while the beauty and magic blaze outside the windows of their boxes, unnoticed. So I am lucky, among the rare and lucky ones who accept this daily magical gift life bestows on those who care to accept it. And my gratitude magnifies the power of this gift.

Life is indeed good if every day I sip this ambrosia, during the ambrosial hours. It is good to experience the wee hours for a treat, at times not related to making late-night love or parties or emergencies. That is also a gift, and with gratitude, I finally lay my head down to sleep.

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…and I leave you with this one final thought: dawn and dusk, the ambrosial hours, are indeed magic – and it is always dawn nor dusk somewhere.

 

AUM, Shanti  : )

Good night

Sleep with the angels

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